Tag Archives: Disability

Things I Do at Day Activities

This is my third attempt at writing a blog post for today. I started writing a random ramble, then started sharing ways to relax. While writing about that, I noticed I was explaining all about the snoezelen® room at day activities. I then wanted to write more about things I do at day activities. So here goes.

Usually, I start the day with a cup of coffee. The staff drink coffee in the central area of the day center before the clients arrive, and since I usually arrive early, they offer me a cup too.

Then, when I go to my group’s room, the other clients arrive and the staff help them unzip their coats. They also read the other clients’ diary, in which their home staff write about them.

I usually do a table-based activity first. This involves sorting tasks, construction play, etc. I particularly enjoy shape-sorting activities.

At 9:30, the second staff for the day comes and we drink coffee. Then, we each go to the bathroom. After that, there are set activities for most mornings. On Monday, I go for a long walk with another group. At my group, the other clients play some games and do other table-based activities. They go for a short walk when the other group returns.

On Tuesday, I go swimming every other week. The day center’s people have the pool to themselves then and most clients have an assigned volunteer or staff to help them. The other week, a volunteer comes to our group and we run some errands.

On Wednesday, we have a cooking activity. For this, another volunteer comes. We generally do some really simple cooking. Since it’s a busy day, the staff really do most of the work. I feel sad that they don’t really involve us much. Of course, watching is cool too.

On Friday, we go to the marketplace. Each of us brings some money and we buy something that everyone likes. Sometimes, it’s fish, while other times it’s a bread roll, fruit or salad.

On each of these activities, the staff can’t take all of us. As such, we take turns going with one staff to do the activity, while the rest do table-based activities with the other staff.

Some people also love the snoezelen® or sensory room. I for one do. The sensory room has a water bed, but also a bubble unit, which is a water-filled unit which makes bubbly noises and has floaty objects in it that you can look at. There are also several tactile boards with all kinds of textures on it that you can explore.

Most people also love listening to music. On Wednesday afternoon, a music therapist comes to our group. I only attended this once, as I normally have the afternoon off on Wednesday, but I love it. The group also owns several tablets, a CD player and a TV to listen to music on or watch videos on.

I currently go to day activities two afternoons: Tuesday and Friday. On Tuesday, we have no set activity for the afternoon. This can get a bit boring, as staff usually spent most of the time writing in people’s diaries and doing administrative tasks. On Friday, I and two other clients go horseback riding with one staff.

At 2:30PM, we have a cup of coffee again, After that, most people hang out some and are getting ready for the bus home, even though we won’t be picked up till four o’clock. On Friday though, we have a dance at another group which everyone from the entire center is invited to.

There are four groups at the day center. My group is for the most severely intellectually disabled people. Another is for the elderly. Then there’s one for people with autism and others who need a lot of structure. This is the group who go for the long walk on Monday. The last group is for relatively capable people. They do kitchen-based tasks like loading the dishwasher. They also do creative activities.

Like I said, I’m in the group for severely intellectually disabled people, even though I’m not intellectually disabled. The reason is I need a lot of support and no pressure to achieve. I can visit other groups if I want to though.

#IWSG: Creative Outlets Besides Writing

I have a ton of things I want to write about, but somehow I can’t get myself to actually write. I started trying to use my new Mac Saturday evening. So far, it works but is still a bit hard to use. The WordPress app for Mac isn’t available in the app store, so it is a pain to install. I’m just using my phone now rather than WordPress.com in Safari, because at least I know how to work this.

It’s time again for our Insecure Writer’s Support Group or #IWSG check-in. This month’s question is about creative outlets other than writing.

I must say I”m not terribly creative. I don’t do any artsy things and am no good at music either. No, not all blind people are musically talented! I tried my hand at learning to play the keyboards and guitar for a bit, but didn’t like either. Granted, my guitar lessons were while I was at summer camp in Russia and the instructor spoke Russian and English only. This was before I knew English, so it took me half an hour to figure out what he meant by the “strings”.

If we expand creativity a bit to include crafts, I have tried a ton of them. I started out trying to make cards in 2012, not realizing how inaccessible this craft is to blind people. I should’ve known, since the blindness agency used to offer card making courses but specifically to the partially sighted only.

Then I tried mixed media, which was similarly inaccessible. Then came polymer clay, which should be doable but not by me. I tried to learn to crochet and loom knit too.

Lastly, I tried soap and bath and body product making. I still love that craft and would someday like to pick it up again, but I can’t do it independently. This is when I realized that the problem may not be exclusively with my blindness, but my cerebral palsy affecting my fine motor skills too.

So in short, no, I don’t do any creative things other than write. But I’d love to learn.

Starting My Journey Towards (Hopefully) Going Into Long-Term Care

Last Sunday, my husband asked me whether I had any interesting events this week. I said no, I would just go to day activities and that’s it. Last week, the consultant psychologist on my case called the long-term care funding agency to ask how far they are with processing my application. It’d been sitting with them since Dec 20 and they formally need to finish the process within six to eight weeks. They said it’s on the roll, but that they’d been busy because of the holidays.

Last Thursday, my support coordinator asked whether I wanted to start looking at group homes now while we’re waiting for the funding to hopefully be approved. She had a particular group home in mind which has had an available room for months. I said okay.

She called the group home’s manager and was told I’m welcome to take a tour but to contact the home’s coordinator. Well, to make a long story short, I was invited to the tour yesterday.

This is a home for people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities. The manager stressed that the current residents all function at a mental age of six months or so. Now I find the whole concept of mental age confusing, probably because I myself function much higher intellectually than emotionally. I mean, obviously I assumed these people can’t talk, but well. I don’t mind.

I drove by paratransit taxi to the home yesterday. It is in a city about 30 minutes from my home. I was told to ring the doorbell if I could find it and else to wait for my support coordinator to arrive. From the need to ring the doorbell, I assumed it’s a locked home. It is. I had already read up on it though and had read that the home has a fenced yard. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have liked a locked place. Like, there’s one my support coordinator has mentioned too in the city my day activities is in too, but that’s on the third floor of a nursing home building. I’d feel like I was in a prison then.

I asked the home’s coordinator why this is a locked home, since I assumed all residents are in wheelchairs. Turns out some can walk and may elope. So do I when in a meltdown.

We started the tour in one of the two living rooms. It had a lovely sensory atmosphere. The coordinator asked, since I arrived shortly past noon, whether I’d had lunch. I hadn’t, so she offered me a slice of bread. I liked that.

Once my support coordinator arrived, we talked about my care needs. I function emotionally at a really low level, which is why my support coordinator had believed this place might be for me. The home’s coordinator understood and liked the opportunity to get to know me.

In the home, you have your own bedroom. You share the bathroom with one other resident. Since most clients use diapers, not all bathrooms have a toilet, but the one adjacent to the available room does. Then there’s a large sensory bathroom with a tub. I loved it. They also have sensory materials to use in the living room or an individual resident’s room.

I didn’t get to tour the yard, but was told there are lots of swings in it, including a cocoon swing like the one I love at day activities. They also have one they can use indoors in the living room.

As for the rules, there are no strict visiting hours. Family are actively involved in the residents’ life. They also have volunteers who go for walks with the residents almost each evening. Sometimes, volunteers cook for the residents. When they don’t, the residents get readymade meals like the ones I got in the mental institution. Once a week, a music therapist comes to the home. It’s a facility which offers treatment, so you get the opportunity for physical, occupational or speech therapy if needed. There’s also an intellectual disability physician and a psychologist involved.

During the night, a staff sleeps in an upstairs room. All residents’ bedrooms are downstairs and there’s no need to go upstairs to find the night staff. Rather, they use technology to listen for suspicious noises in the bedrooms, but the coordinator did say this could be turned off in my bedroom if I were able to phone the night staff myself.

If I get funding for long-term care, it needs to be tweaked somehow if I want to live at this place, because my funding would be based on blindness and this is an intellectual disability facility. Then, the manager, physician, psychologist and all need to agree that I’m the right fit. This includes a risk assessment. The coordinator says this is in case of things like severe epilepsy, but my husband told me to mention elopement.

Of course, I feel internally conflicted as to whether I want this to work out. I’m excited about the facility itself, but still feel like I shouldn’t need this much care. I’m afraid the funding authority is going to agree here.

Once I’d returned home, my support coordinator called me. She had heard from the funding authority physician. The consultant psychologist had already explained my needs, but she wants to see me anyway. That appt is going to be tomorrow at 10AM. I assume this is to validate I in fact have the needs the application says I do. Then, the physician will write a report for the funding decision-maker, I guess.

My support coordinator is going on vacation on Feb 7 and won’t be back till the 25th. She said though that, if my funding gets approved while she’s on vacation and I want to start the process of applying at this living facility, I can do so with the care consultant and my support worker.

PoCoLo

Sorry Not Sorry

Today I am not sorry I suffer with mental health issues. I didn’t choose them, no matter what some people think. I don’t necessarily have a bad attitude – and when I do, it has nothing to do with my mental illnesses.

Today, I”m not sorry I am a trauma survivor. I didn’t choose to endure the traumas I endured. These traumas and the resulting mental health symptoms do not make me weak. They do not make me not resilient. People can be resilient and suffer from mental health issues or trauma-related symptoms nonetheless.

Some people choose to believe that the fact that I don’t live up to my intellectual potential, means I’m not resilient. They reason that, if I were persistent enough, I would have finished university and had a job by now. They also judge my lack of persistence in these areas as a sign of a bad attitude.

Today, I’m not sorry I live with multiple disabilities. I don’t care whether you consider these disabilities valid or not. The people who judge me, think I use my disabilities as an excuse not to fulfill their expectations of me. They don’t realize that it’s my life and I have absolutely zero obligation to fulfill their dreams for me. No, not even when these people are my parents. I have no obligation to prove I am worthy of life.

People who don’t know me well commonly assume I must be very resilient for the mere fact that I’m alive. I didn’t use to like this attitude either, but then I read today’s post by carol anne, which inspired this post. Both of us were born prematurely. Both of us suffer with lifelong disabilities as a result. Both of us endured childhood trauma. Doesn’t the fact that we survived and haven’t succumbed, mean we’re pretty resilient? I think it does. We’re badass!

To Live a Meaningful Life

What does it mean to live a meaningful life? Does it mean to be successful? To contribute to society? I used to think that’s what it meant. I was raised with the idea that, in order to be worthy, you needed to contribute. Many people sitll hold this opinion and it creeps up in my mind every now and again.

Since I’m nowhere near successful by non-disabled standards, does this mean I don’t live a meaningful life? Especially since I used to conform to these non-disableed standards? Until my crisis of 2007, I lived a pretty normal, fulfilling, successful life. Now I seemingly don’t.

I mean, I need considerable care. I’m still not fully convinced that I even contribute to my marriage, even though my husband says I do. I don’t work. I live semi-independently, but this is so hard that I am applying to move into long-term care again. I do day activities at a place for people with severe intellectual disabilities.

Yet if I say this means I don’t live a meaningful life, am I not saying the same of those other people at my day activities place? They don’t contribute to society in any kind of tangible way. Yet they spread kindness and smiles all over the place.

Can’t I redefine meaningful living in a similar way that the National Federation of the Blind wrote a new slogan? They used to say that, with proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance. They also used to say that the average blind person can do the average job as well as the average sighted person can. This was significantly dismissive of those with multiple disabilities, or those who for any other reason couldn’t contribute as much to society as the average non-disabled person. Now they say you can live the life you want, blindness isn’t what’s holding you back. This is more tuned into the wishes of people to live meaningful lives in such a way that feels good to them. It moves away the focus from the need to contribute and onto the wish to fulfill one’s own dreams. How wonderful!

Linking up with Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt for this week is “Mean(s)”.

Mental Health Ramble

I want to write, but I’m feeling stuck. A thousand thoughts are going through my mind. I’m not even sure that I’m being myself as I write this. Who am I, anyway? I don’t know. I can pinpoint it fairly clearly when I’m in one of my ego states. When I’m not, I doubt everything.

I would’ve had DBT yesterday, but my nurse practitioner was off sick. The psychiatrist would be calling me, but when she did, I pushed the wrong button. She left a message saying she wanted to call me because my nurse practitioner is off sick, but also to discuss “how things are progressing”. I’m guessing she’ll tell me off for wanting to go into supported housing, for feeling happy in developmental disabilities services and for not being sure I feel mental health treatment is benefiting me.

Right now, I’m not sure I care. I’m not sure whether I want to go the route my psychiatrist is wanting me to go, which is do DBT for now and be put on the list for trauma diagnosis. I don’t even know for sure whether my trauma symptoms are severe enough to warrant treatment, or whether I want them to be. Usually whenever I doubt this, it’s a sign that some memory or new aspect of myself is surfacing. I have no idea this time.

I feel, above all, that what I need is safety. This means being assured that I get the support I need. I’m mot sure my psychiatrist is of that opinion too. She told me at our last meeting in early October, that she felt day activities were underserving me, not challenging me enough. I panicked, called my support coordinator, who called the consultant psychologist involved in my case. She then E-mailed my psychiatrist. Maybe the way I did it, it feels as though I’m trying to use the cosultant to tell my psychiatrist off. That wasn’t my intention.

That being said, I do feel much more comfotable with my support team from the intellectual disability agency than with my treatment team from mental health. I don’t know whether that means I’m too comfortable being taken care of. I don’t know whether I care.

Anyway, my psychiatrist will be calling me again on Tuesday. Then I’ll be at day activities, so if I feel distressed by something she says, I can go to one of the staff.

CP Conference Last Saturday

So I attended the Netherlands’ national conference day on cerebral palsy on Saturday. Before I went, i was incredibly scared. Would I be able to connect to other people or would I be left on the sidelines all day? Would there be people willing to help me navigate the school building in which the conference was being organized? Would I arrive on time? But my main worry was related to my own diagnosis of cerebral palsy, or rather the lack thereof. You see, I was never told that I have CP by my parents and was too young to understand medical jargon by the time they stopped taking me to specialists. Maybe my parents didn’t even know, as doctors do not always clearly communicate and my parents were mostly looking for reassurance.

My GP also was a bit vague when I asked him last year, citing a probably relatively recent letter saying that I had acquired brain injury. Now I do happen to know that doctors disagree on whether brain injury acquired shortly after birth counts as ABI or a diagnosis of CP or the like should be made instead. So I’m a member of Facebook groups for both CP and ABI. However, ABI is a diagnosis regardless of symptoms and CP requires mobility impairments. I wonder therefore, are my mobility impairments severe enough to count?

I arrived at the school forty minutes before the doors were officially open, but someone took me to a chair anyway and gave me a cup of coffee. Soon, a man I’d been talking to via Facebook messenger arrived too and we sat and chatted some.

Gradually, other people arrived and it was soon time for the official opening speech. This was partly about Steptember, a movement challenge to collect money for research on CP.

Then, a neuropsychology professor spoke about the effects of movement and mental or physical effort on cognition in people with and without CP. It turns out that effort, whether that be mental or physical, strengthens brain connections to the frontal and parietal cortex, which are responsible for higher-order cognitive functions such as planning, organizing and impulse control. He also briefly touched on the effects of music, which can also help strengthen these connections. In short, moving and exerting ourselves as much as we can within the limits of our CP helps our cognitive functions. Of course, past age 30, these brain areas no longer grow and actually decline, but still exerting yourself enables you to learn more effectively regardless of your age.

After this, you could choose to follow a workshop session. The one I followed was on overload. This was a bit of a chaotic workshop, as the presenter allowed for questions while presenting. I am quite familiar with overload, as a person with autism, but I loved to explore it from a CP perspective. I mean, physically I do have some more limitations than those without CP. As a result, walking may give me energy, but it also costs me energy more so than it does non-disabled people. This was rather interesting, because I often tend to sometimes give everything and more of myself physically and other times I tend not to bother. Something the presenter said that really struck a chord was that mental overload can be counteracted by physical activity and vice versa.

In the afternoon, we could also pick a workshop to follow. The one I chose was on nutrition. A registered dietitian had developed nutritional guidelines for children and adults with CP. Topics that were discussed included underweight and overweight. The presenter said that, as a general rule, people with CP need fewer calories than those without CP. The reason is that, even though our movement costs more energy and hence burns more calories, we tend not to move as much.

Another topic that was discussed was swallowing difficulties. Did you know that up to 99% of people with CP, even those with mild CP, have swallowing issues? I didn’t. This was so validating, because I happen to have some rather significant swallowing issues.

Other topics of discussion included reflux, constipation and bone development. There is little research into these, as particularly constipation and osteoporosis are common within the general population anyway.

Overall, I loved this day. It was also very validating. Not only did no-one say I don’t look like someone with CP, but I actually met several people who are at least as mildly affecte as I am.

Confessions of a New Mummy

Dreams I Had for Myself as a Child #Write31Days

Welcome to day 18 in #Write31Days. Today’s post is all about dreams and life visions. Specifically, I am sharing the dreams I had for myself as a child.

The first dream I remember having about what I’d be when I’d grow up, was a writer. I may’ve said as a KIndergartner that I wanted to be a princess or whatever, but as soon as I could write with some confidence, I wanted to make my career out of that. I remember my parents telling me pretty early on that writers usually don’t make a living writing, but I didn’t care.

As I said before, I started out wanting to write fiction. I didn’t keep a journal consistently until I was thirteen and fiction was all that I knew before then. I didn’t get access to the Internet until age fifteen, but by the time I had an Internet connection, I was hooked on non-fiction.

Another dream I had for myself as an older child and teen, was to become a teacher. My ideas varied as to which grade or subject I’d like to teach. I definitely looked up to my teachers, so it’s no surprise I wanted to be one.

When I was around twelve, I started to deveop a dream of becoming a psychologist. I wanted to help children who were likely to fall through the cracks, as I had a feeling I was. I started hoping every episode of my parents’ favorite news program had a feature on kids with psychological problems. Once, there was an episode on about autism and I was hooked. This was nearly ten years before my own autism diagnosis. I had a feeling I was somehow like the boy in the program. Similar with a seventeen-year-old girl who was being restrained in a psychiatric hospital in around 1997. She was too smart for intellectual disability services but didn’t belong in psychiatry either. Something clicked with me, but obviously I couldn’t put my finger to it. I still really can’t.

When I was sixteen, I developed another dream. I wanted to study in the United States once in college. I would be majoring in American studies at university in Nijmegen, which'd offer motivated, talented students the opportunity to study in the U.S. for six months in their third year. I was at the time pretty sure I'd be talented enough. I loved reading up about American cities on City-Data.com.

Looking back, obviously, I didn’t make any of my dreams come true. I write, but not for profit and I don’t intend on it ever at all. I have some education in psychology, but am nowhere near a degree.

At the back of my mind, there always was that seventeen-year-old girl in the isolation room in the psychiatric hospital. I’ve not become her either, but I’ve come close. Then I rose up above my fate and now I’m an advocate. I’m happy as I am now.

Four Skills I’m Pretty Good At #Write31Days

Welcome to day 15 in my #Write31Days challenge on personal growth. Today, I have another list post for you. One of Lisa Shea’s journaling prompts on self-esteem has us write about our skills. What things are you pretty good at? Here goes.

1. Writing. I’m by no means a bestselling author – I have only had one piece of writing published in a book so far. I also make a lot of typeos in my writing. Overall though I consider my writing to be pretty good.

I started writing at about eight-years-old, wanting to become a children’s fiction author once I’d grow up. Now my husband is one of my worst critics when it comes to my children’s fiction, saying my stories aren’t very imaginative to say the least. Then again, when he compliments me on my blog posts, I take it all the more to heart.

2. Calendar calculation. You didn’t know that’s a skill? It is! My husband can’t tell whether October has 30 or 31 day without looking at the calendar, so I’ve got to believe that calendar calculation is a skill. It refers to being able to tell what day a given date in the past or future falls on. I’m not nearly as good at it as I used to be some twenty years ago, but am still pretty good.

3. Researching topics of interest. When a topic captures my interest, I can research it for days on end and will quickly get to know a lot about it. As such, I know a lot about psychiatry – more than some so-called professionals would like me to know. The flip side si that I cannot convert all my knowledge into practice. For example, I know a lot about soap making, but after those first few attempts, I haven’t tried making soap on my own again.

4. Relating to other people in a unique way. Particularly to people with cognitive, intellectual or developmental disabilities. I consider myself pretty good at relating to my fellow clients at day activities. As such, I have been known to come up with some ideas for sensory activities.

What skills are you pretty good at?

A Letter to My Younger Self #Write31Days

Welcome to day nine in my #Write31Days series on personal growth. Today, I chose yet another prompt from The Self-Exploration Journal. It asks what one piece of advice you would give your younger self if you could go back in time. Ths question couldn’t be more timely, as I’m facing a lot of regrets from the past right now as I face the decision to apply for long-term care. I am spinnning this questioon around a little and going to write a letter to my younger self. I don’t have an idea for the age of this younger self, but the piece of advice should be the same anyway.

Dear Younger Self,

This is your 32-year-old self writing. I want to reassure you that I see you. I see your struggles for autonomy, for self-determination. And yet, I see your struggles with your limitations. You have yet to come to terms with the fact that you’re multiply-disabled.

I see that peope try to control you. Your parents consider you worth parenting only so long as you prove that you’re going to give back by contributing to society. Your support staff try to please your parents, sending you out to live on your own despite knowing this isn’t in your best interest. Your psychologist in Nijmegen, no matter how helpful she is in some respects, still doesn’t provide you with the opportunity to go into the right type of care. She, like eveyrone before her, values your intelligence over your need for support. Your psychologist in Wolfheze blames you. She robs you off your last bit of self-determination by kicking you out of the institution without proper after care.

I want to reassure you. I see your needs. I’m fighting for them to be met. I don’t have enough support yet, but I have people around me who are fighting for it with me. I can’t promise you that you will ultimately get into long-term care, as that’s up to the funding agency to decide. I can however assure you that I’m fighting for you.

If there’s one piece of advice I could give you, it’s to fight for yourself. No-one can live your life but you. You don’t owe your parents anything. You’re past that point. Care staff do only their job. This isn’t to discount the good work my current care staff do, but it’s just that, work. They will eventually fade out of our life. Even your husband, the only person who will most likely stick by you for a long time to come, doesn’t have the right to control you. I know you want to please him, because you love him, but that is different. Pleasing your husband is founded on love, not authority, and it is mutual. Even so, your husband does not live your life. Ultimately, the only person who will live the entirety of your life with you, is you.

I don’t mean this to criticize you at all. I see how hard it is for you to stand up to controling people. But you’ll learn to do so in time.

With love,

Astrid

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?